ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — Nearly three weeks after the surprise retirement of Tony La Russa only days after winning their 11th World Championship, the St. Louis Cardinals made a decision on Sunday to hire Mike Matheny as the next manager of the historic franchise. Tune into KMOX 1120 AM at 11:00am on Monday morning to hear the official announcement live from Busch Stadium.
As a former multiple Gold Glove winning catcher, Matheny is thought to possess the natural leadership skills to lead a Major League team. He comes out on top of a list of candidates that included former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, Cardinals third base coach Jose Oquendo, Memphis Redbirds manager Chris Maloney and Chicago White Sox coach Joe McEwing.
Some of the current better ball clubs in baseball are led by managers that were former catchers, such as Joe Girardi, Mike Sciosia, and Bruce Bochy. Perhaps the best pitching coach in all of baseball, Dave Duncan, was also a former catcher.
Regarding the rest of the coaching staff, Duncan is the only coach signed through next season, and his contract includes an option for 2013. The others coaches did express interest to stay on with the club. That subject could be addressed on Monday.
Michael Scott Matheny is a native of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, a suburb outside of Columbus, where he was born on September 22, 1970. Though he grew up a Ohio State fan, Matheny attended the University of Michigan where the catcher got a scholarship to play baseball. That is also where he met his wife, Kristen, a former field hockey player at Michigan.
He was originally drafted in 1988 in the 31st round of the amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, but went back to Michigan where he got better. The story of being drafted his first time was an interesting tale, especially since then Blue Jays GM and now Hall of Famer Pat Gillick made an attempt to personally lure Matheny from college. Just after turning down a potentially lucrative contract for a 31st round draft pick, Matheny was then defecated upon by a pigeon while walking to class.
Three years later, Matheny was drafted in the 8th round of the 1991 amateur draft by the Brewers, with whom he made his Major League debut with in 1994. After spending his first five seasons with the Brewers, he then signed with Toronto in 1999. Then, the following November, the former team that once wanted the once young catcher released him when he was 28.
Nearly a month later, GM Walt Jocketty and the Cardinals signed the catcher who had been averaging only 5 errors per season, but was only a .229 hitter. Matheny was never known for his work at the plate unless he was squatting behind it. Quickly, he became an ‘on-field commander’ for Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan to lead the pitching staff along with the defense. Matheny was the kind of catcher, plus the kind of baseball player, that La Russa and Duncan did not have since losing Tom Pagnozzi after the first season with the Cardinals in 1996.
For his impressive work behind the plate in 2000 committing 5 errors and throwing out 53% of runners, Matheny became the first Cardinals catcher since Tom Pagnozzi in 1994 to win a Gold Glove. He would go on to win the award two more times as a Redbird in 2003 and 2004. Matheny was granted free agency on October 29, 2004 right after he help lead the Cardinals to their first World Series appearance since 1982. He signed with the San Francisco Giants where he won his fourth Gold Glove in 2005.
The end of Matheny’s playing career began May of 2006 when a series of foul balls caromed off his mask, resulting in a serious concussion. That July, the Giants announced that he would not return for the remainder of the season and that his career status was in doubt. On February 1, 2007, Matheny announced his retirement due to his ongoing symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
Matheny became an instructor for Tony La Russa’s staff in 2008. Along with that, he was an analyst with FOX Sports Midwest. He was still considered to be a voice of leadership in the Cardinals clubhouse even though most of the guys that were his teammates are now gone. Former Redbird teammates that were on the club this season and played with Matheny include Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter, possibly Albert Pujols if he resigns, and hitting coach Mark McGwire if he returns.
This is the first person since Joe Torre, another former catcher, to be a player and the manager for the St. Louis Cardinals. He joins Torre, Ken Boyer, and Red Schoendienst to be a modern-day player and manager for the Cardinals. Other notable players to also be the manager of the Redbirds at one point include Rogers Hornsby, Billy Southworth, and Frankie Frisch. Matheny becomes the 49th manager in franchise history.
Terms of the agreement between the Cardinals and Matheny were not released.
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